Tag Archives: Poverty

What you won’t hear in Gov. Haslam’s “State of the State” address

For Haslam...a lot is better left unsaid.

For Haslam…a lot is better left unsaid.

Tonight, Gov. Haslam will deliver his “State of the State” address. I expect it will go a lot like last year’s address, keying in on education and fiscal restraint. He might say something about Tenncare expansion, but if he does, it will only be to say we can’t afford to take a couple of years of free money to care for 180,000 people in our state…because, you know, free money from the Feds is too costly when you’re terrified of the Lt. Governor.

Haslam will have to face the fact that revenue collections are $171m short for the first 6 months of the year. That’s a lot of scratch any way you slice it. Perhaps this isn’t the economic miracle that he thought it was.

Of course, lower tax collections means the Governor has an excuse to cut necessary services. Every year he’s been in office he’s directed all departments other than education to cut an arbitrary 5% from their budgets…all while lowering taxes on folks who make their money through investment income.

All of this fits neatly into an ideology that’s centered around the”haves” and “can’t haves”…a worldview the Governor doesn’t explicitly articulate, but one he is a studious acolyte of.

But there’s so much more you won’t hear from the Governor.

Giving our money away to other states

Giving our money away to other states

You won’t hear that his Tennessee plan for Medicaid Expansion is a plan in name only, or that, as of today he’s surrendered $85,000,000 of Tennessean’s Federal Tax dollars to other states because he thinks a health insurance plan based on Republican ideology, and authored largely by the Heritage Foundation, aka Obamacare, is a clunker.

You won’t hear about government contracts he supports with a company he formerly invested in, or that an audit calls that same contract into question, or that when he tried to get more government money for his former investment he was told no by members of his own party.

You won’t hear anything about any of these issues, or the contract he gave to his Finance Commissioner’s former employer, or the contract General Services awarded to Enterprise-Rent-a-Car after hiring one of its former execs.

You won’t hear him talk about his economic development plan that includes paying $100,000 per job to a company that gave over $36,000 to his campaign, and is represented by his under the table paid “advisor” Tom Ingram.

You will hear how he’s running state government like a business…he just won’t mention that business is his family business, Pilot Flying J which is under Federal investigation for defrauding clients.

I mean, there’s a whole page of questions and an hour long special to boot.

But despite all this graft, regular Tennesseans must suffer cuts because a state with one of the lowest tax burdens on the wealthy in the nation must find more ways for them to accumulate wealth so…they will “create jobs” even though business leaders say tax cuts don’t create jobs, and so does a study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

You probably will hear him crow about education, but he won’t mention the reforms he’s taking credit for were first offered by a Democratic President, and put into action by a Democratic Governor.

You won’t hear him talk about our poverty rate that is higher than the national average, or our jobless rate is higher than the national average.

You won’t hear him talk about any of these things because he doesn’t have to. This is just another victory lap in a life of victory laps for a Governor that likely won’t have anyone running against him in the fall, and that feels he can act as he pleases, so long as it doesn’t raise too much of a stir so as to damage his widely held image as a “moderate”.

So enjoy the kabuki theater that will be tonight’s State of the State address, which will be aired online and on your local PBS station.

It’ll be a doozie…I’m sure.

Morning Coffee – Massive Research Edition

This is me, since 4:30 this morning

The next couple of weeks are going to be a little spotty here at STP. I can’t speak directly for my cohorts, but I’ve got a massive research project going on that is taking up just about all of my spare time, and forcing me to write constantly. This means that I don’t have all that much time to dedicate to the blog. Throw work on top of that, and I’m in need of a clone or at least an army of helpers that need neither food nor financial resources to survive.

I won’t get into all the details of the research project, but I will say that it’s relevant to a discussion that’s going on here in Shelby County. Hopefully I’ll be able to present my initial findings in the near future, before certain decisions are set in stone.

So bear with me, and us in general. We’re working our patooties off to address all the things that we have on our plate. I feel certain that things will get back to normal once all of this has settled down a bit.

On to the Coffee!

Back in March I wrote about privatizing school custodians in Nashville Public Schools. According to the City Paper, less than half have been hired by the private contractor. Nice.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has teamed up with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bring an anti-poverty initiative to Memphis. Some of the details are sketchy right now, but I’m glad they’re doing something to address the needs of nearly 25% of the population. See also: the Mayor’s blog.

Braisted reports on our Southern Sauna. That’s a much nicer way of saying it’s hot as **** and only getting hotter.

The Nashville Scene looks at the reasons behind the commutation of Gaile Owens’ death sentence.

Let the FREE ROCKY movement begin. I propose t-shirts.

Have a good day and a great weekend!

Surprise! Poverty and Education Magically Linked!

An article in this morning’s Commercial Appeal highlights something every educator already knows: Poverty plays a big role in the education of our nation’s children.

As the child of two educators who avoided the family business, this isn’t news to me. I’ve been hearing this my entire life. So its odd when I hear politicians saying we need to fix teachers or whatever, when we really need to be working to fix the conditions that maintain the high levels of poverty both in the state as a whole, and our individual communities.

But addressing the role of poverty in education is one of those things that politicians are really scared of for some reason. It’s always easier to pick on teachers than it is to address something that leaves you staring at the ceiling and in a cold sweat at night.

Here’s a little taste of the article:

State ACT scores have increased from 19.9 in 1999 to 20.6 in 2009. Standards for school principals make the state a regional leader, and new high school graduates in Tennessee are enrolling in college at a higher rate than their U.S. peers.

But the increasing number of children growing up in poverty threatens improvements, according to a Challenge to Lead report released Wednesday by the Southern Regional Education Board.

In 2009, 55 percent of Tennessee youngsters came from homes where family incomes made them eligible for free school lunches (up to $40,793 for a family of four), a 14 percent increase in 10 years.

The reasons include poor families caught in the economic downturn but also point to a growing Hispanic population, which tends to live on subsistence wages, according to the report.

According to data in the Urban Child Institute’s 2010 “State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County: Data Book,” median income in the city has risen 29 percent since 2003 to $45,540 and higher in the unincorporated county.

“But it has had no impact on children living in poverty,” said Eugene Cashman, president and CEO of the Urban Child Institute.

The way out, he said, is concentrated investments in prenatal care and pre-K, “which make children perform better immediately.”

Nearly 19% of Shelby County residents live in poverty. In Memphis that number is over 24%. Considering those numbers, and the fact that 85% of MCS students qualify for free or reduced lunches, it’s no surprise that our city schools only graduate around 60% of it’s students.

This is something that requires a broad based action plan by all the political bodies involved; from the school boards, City Council and County Commission, state legislative delegations and ultimately federal legislators. Until there is some integrative approach by, at the very least, the majority of these political bodies, the song will remain the same for students not just in Memphis and Shelby County, but across the state.

Merely addressing the symptoms; teachers, standards, etc. isn’t working. We need to treat the disease. It’s going to take a lot of cooperation to do this. Unfortunately, cooperation is in very short supply, particularly where its needed most, here in Memphis.

Banking The Unbanked

The Flyer’s Bianca Phillips reports on a City of Memphis plan to make it easier for low-income Memphians to find a use a bank that won’t suck out their money due to fees:

Memphian Autumn Jones hasn’t had a bank account in years, and she doesn’t want one.

“One bounced check totally ruined all my finances, and now I think it’s cheaper not to have an account,” the 31-year-old Berclair resident said. “If you don’t put your money into the bank, you can’t spend money you don’t have.”

Though Jones is perfectly happy without a bank account, a new city-backed program is aimed at bringing people like her back into the mainstream banking system. Bank On Memphis, modeled after programs in San Francisco and Boston, encourages banks and credit unions to develop low- or no-fee checking and savings accounts for citizens without bank accounts.

Consider the following:

Approximately 96,000 people in the Memphis metro area do not have a banking account. Those people spend an estimated $800 to $1,200 a year on check-cashing and money-order fees.

“Check-cashing places charge about 4 to 5 percent of a payroll check, so that may be $25 for a $500 check,” said Keith Turbett, community development manager for Suntrust, one of Bank On Memphis’ participating banks. “For somebody earning at the low end of the pay scale, that’s eating into some grocery money.”


“The number-one reason people are unbanked seems to be that they don’t believe they have enough money,” Neale said. “Along with that, a lot of people don’t trust banks or some people have had bad experiences with banks. They may have had an overdraft and gotten thrown out of the system, and there’s some bad vibes there.”

This is all well and good, but as Polar Donkey told us four years ago, sometimes it’s because all the banks have left the areas where these folks live.  Why has no one addressed that issue?

See Also:
Bringing Banks Where There Are None

Nashville Is Fighting…Poverty

Troubling times call for bold initiatives. This just might qualify.

Mayor Karl Dean and a task force released a report Monday with 30 recommendations for reducing poverty, with a goal of cutting the rate in half by 2020.

The United States Census Bureau put the city’s poverty rate in 2008 at 16.9 percent, up from 15.2 percent a year earlier. The Brookings Institution recently reported that it had reached 17.5 percent and said Nashville bucked a national trend in which people in the suburbs were becoming poorer at a faster rate than those in cities. In Middle Tennessee, poverty grew at a faster pace in Nashville than in the suburbs.

Both numbers showed the problem intensifying in the midst of one of the nation’s worst economic downturns.

Just for a point of comparison, Shelby County has a poverty rate of 18.7%, Memphis’ is 24.1%.

If you think that’s bad, in 2000, Lake County, Tennessee had 23.6% with only 8000 residents and limited economic development potential. It’s likely worse now, though the Census Department doesn’t have numbers since 2000. Imagine how badly the denial of the TIGER grant they applied for is hurting them.

Clearly, we have a huge problem here, throughout Tennessee, and it effects all of us. The more people we have living in poverty, the less those individuals are contributing to the economy. The weaker the economy, the fewer jobs that are available, the fewer jobs… it’s a vicious cycle.

Folks, that’s just the economic side of the equation, there are all kinds of social issues that come with poverty that I can’t even begin to mention. It’s not just about pocketbook issues, it’s about helping build and ensure a greater quality of life for all of us in our society.

We can’t do what we’ve done in the past, blame the victims. That obviously hasn’t solved anything. We have to come up with a real plan, and part of that is thinking differently, across the board, about the causes and condition of poverty. Until we are WILLING to do that, we’re just spinning our wheels.

Hopefully, this plan in Nashville is a step in the right direction.

The Realities Of Poverty This Winter

A stunning post about the realities that people are facing out of Nashville from Stone Soup Station.

I think it had a lot to do with the type of emergencies and difficulties brought to my table by many of the folks I saw last week; there was the family of four who was surviving on the disability income of their 20 year old daughter, who was dying of cancer.  Dad had suffered a full arrest heart attack a year ago and mom was working to support the family and care for sick daughter and dad as well as 11 year old daughter when the stress finally got to her and she suffered a heart attack herself less than a month ago.
A woman in another county balling her eyes out because she was about to be evicted and her unemployment wasn’t enough to help her move.  Her 17 year old daughter is also working and trying to finish school and the HPRP grant available to assist folks like these isn’t being fully utilized by many of the other counties in our state because of the level of work it takes to put someone through the process – staff simply cannot add more to an already astonishing caseload of people and many of the agencies can’t afford to help even if they had available staff, since the grant is a reimbursable and the initial cash outlay must come from the agency doing the helping.  How many non-profit social service providers do you know with extra cash lying around, eh?
The entire post is utterly devastating to read on, as Steven writes, the economic disaster that many people in this state are facing.